Saturday, December 7, 2013
Monday, November 4, 2013
Sunday, February 24, 2013
I no longer think that I am some grumpy old, obsessed-with-rules traditionalist every time I feel barfy during a LOVE Homily.
You know what I am calling LOVE Homilies? That is when a priest/pastor/speaker goes on for 20 minutes (or, heaven help us, longer) about how we should love one another and how much God loves us.
My negative feelings toward LOVE Homilies were greatly magnified during my year of RCIA. Before I could join the Catholic Church, apparently it was necessary for me to attend mandatory lectures every Saturday night for almost a year. The point of all of these lectures, best I can remember, was the repeated stating of the fact that God loves me.
Now this was totally worth it considering the end goal of receiving the sacraments and joining the Catholic Church. No question.
However! Let the record show that I was a Protestant at the time so I already knew God loved me. It would have been more helpful if that time had been used explaining some of the wacky-seeming Mary stuff and Purgatory stuff I would soon be buying into.
And I have been trying to love God and neighbor for all my life and what you see is all the progress the Grace of God has mustered up in me. I need more help. Something more specific.
One problem with love is it's elusiveness. Trying to love is like trying to catch a greased pig. So here we are with oil on our hands and clothes, tired and gross, sweating and slipping, falling off pigs into mud puddles. The priest often seems more like a dry cheerleader on the sidelines than anyone with actual helpful expertise in the matter although he certainly wrestles his own pigs too.
A quick google search turned up this wiki-how page on How to Catch a Greased Pig. I guess that is what I want from a homily. I want another trick to try like "jump diagonally across onto the pig from your better foot."
And in the end, after years of trying to love, my success rate probably has more to do with the gift of Grace than my ability to jump diagonally while grabbing hold.
How about a homily on how to convince God to give me more Grace.
Monday, February 4, 2013
Do you find yourself, regardless of your angel's assistance, still in a frequent state of suffering? What is WITH that?
Why are we told to pray for help from our Guardian Angels? Aren't Guardian Angels supposed to be always there working for us whether we ask them to or not? Isn't angel help, like breathing, an automatic process you don't have to think about all the time?
For that matter, why do bad things happen to bad people? Where is God in all this and why doesn't He do something?
Here are some reasons God would allow (not cause, but allow) suffering:
A) Suffering can build character, empathy, humility and help us to grow in love.
B) We learn lessons from it. (Especially if it comes as a consequence of our stupidity or meanness.)
C) Purgatory - It is a great virtue to look within ourselves and identify things we are doing/thinking/being that could separate us from close friendship with God. Those things are called sin. Going to confession gets us forgiveness but . . . there is still restitution to be made. There are still consequences of our forgiven sins that if not paid in this life will likely be waiting for us in Purgatory.
So Purgatory is where we pay off these little debts we accumulate in this life before we move on to Heaven with our shiny, clean souls. Pain and suffering we experience in this life, if offered to God, goes toward paying off that debt and shortens the time of purification we experience in Purgatory, which is a good thing. Pain and suffering in this life, when offered to God, is pure POWER. Here are some things you can use that power for:
- reducing the time YOU will spend in Purgatory
- reducing the time someone specific you love spends in Purgatory
- reducing the time someone you don't know or love spends in Purgatory (What a gift!)
- making any of your prayer requests more powerful. Why do you think people fast in the Bible? Fasting is a good way to show repentance but it, as a form of voluntary suffering offered up, is a special kind of powerful prayer for any kind of intention you have.
So, I do believe germs exist, but I don't believe random germs are going to make me sick. They can't touch me without God's permission. And if they get me sick they will be an opportunity God is presenting me. Then I will have the choice to waste the suffering by moaning and complaining, or I can see it as a gift that some of the saints actually sought out and longed for. It is a gift I can give. And when I give God my suffering I am ACTIVELY, AT THAT MOMENT, SAVING MYSELF, SAVING THOSE I LOVE AND SAVING THE WORLD! I am putting power in the ammunition stores of the powers of good in the battle against evil.
I will say my Guardian Angel prayer to help me to listen a little harder for my angel's voice, to thank my angel for his vigilance, and to make sure that nothing random happens to me that isn't purely a gift, in whatever kind of wrapping, from the hand of God.
Random, purposeless suffering stinks. Suffering for someone you love, well . . . ask Jesus.
Saturday, September 8, 2012
Sunday, August 5, 2012
Her strong feelings have nothing to do with politics, she just loves the darn chicken. Ever since we moved out of the south she has pined for that yummy peanut-oil fried goodness and waffle fries. The above picture was taken on a recent journey south. This shows her second visit to Chick-fil-A during a four day trip.
Lest I seem to take sides on this one, please note that her vegetarian sister's (non-political) look of revulsion was cropped out of the picture by request.
So eat chicken or don't. To each his own.
Monday, July 30, 2012
Sunday, May 27, 2012
Remember those Greek gods and goddesses? They were hanging around for all eternity on Mount Olympus. Seemingly they had nothing much to do except have sex out of wedlock with all manner of man and beast and then fight with each other.
When I was young and read some of these stories (and that is the extent of my expertise, I do not pretend to be an expert on Greek mythology) I was SO happy that I was not immortal like those guys.
BUT . . . Now I see that I am. Not in the way where a mother tells her wild-driving son "You are not IMMORTAL you know!" Instead, in the gonna-be-around-for-eternity-with-or-without-Jesus way.
We need to remember that even though we are, AMAZINGLY immortal, we are not God. Our long eternity will be determined pretty much by how well we keep that in mind in our earthly time.
One other interesting point of comparison, the blood of the Greek immortals (like Zeus) was called ichor. If humans drank it they would die. In contrast, we drink the blood of Jesus to live, to have life.
I am glad I don't live in Ancient Greece, not knowing what we know today about Christianity and thinking Zeus was the biggest, best thing out there. And I am happy I live in an era when, hopefully, the cows are happier than the one in the picture.
Mary days are easy - the color blue once or twice a week (she pretty much gets all the Saturdays). I played with the idea of trying to wear liturgical colors every day. This gets tricky during the summer unless one looks really good in, and has lots of wardrobe options in green.
I played with the idea of buying Christmas lights in all the liturgical colors and plugging in the proper one every evening for the day to come. It is not impossible to find purple and pink but the one's I found had warnings about lead in them so it was not looking like a good project to do with the little ones in the family.
Above is a picture of something my parents made me for my birthday a while ago. My dad is good at woodworking. There is a dowel resting on the two hooks. My mom used to make banners so she sewed some shiny cloth and bric-a-brac in different liturgical colors in double-sided squares, attached in pairs by three black bands that allow them to be draped over the dowel and easily changed every day. I put the rosary on it just for size perspective.
I TREASURE this . . . um, unnamed thing, they made me. My 8 year old's job is to check the Church calendar every morning and hang the correct liturgical color. He thinks it is fun. If it has been one color for awhile and changes we can talk about the new season or feast. If it turns red we can look to see who died (what martyr we are celebrating that day). It is also a conversation piece, and in that sense, an evangelization tool. Hey, it also looks classier than most of my furniture (my parents do good work).
Someone should steal this idea and mass produce these. You have my and my parents' permission! America NEEDS these. (OK, American needs a lot of things.)
Anyway, let me know if you can think of other ways to celebrate the liturgical colors of the day and season in your home or wardrobe, on Pentecost and beyond.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
I met someone recently who reminded me of St. Mary Magdalen. She was speaking to a large group of women of the church and sharing the story of the abortion she had and her conversion to the Catholic Church that followed. Lets call her Emily.
Emily dressed the part. Her clothes were drapey in a style that was modern enough, yet reminiscent of the earliest Bible heros. She had an amazing black scarf that she wore somehow stylishly like a mantilla. Her mood was somber and penitent.
Emily had grown up in a loving, happy family with a summer cabin and the expectation that she would offer her virginity to her husband as her parents had done for each other. Regarding Mary Magdalen's family, we know that they were "well off" because her brother Lazarus bankrolled much of Jesus' ministry. Lazarus and Martha's seemingly easy acceptance of Jesus and scandal-free romp through the Bible leads you to expect that the home was full of generally well-behaved and loving people.
We don't know what happened to set Mary Magdalen on a sinful path. Emily got a boyfriend.
The most amazing part of Emily's story was that she not only knew that she was carrying a baby, but she had bonded with it and looked forward to being its mother and had begun loving it, already. As encouragement and support seemed to dissolve away from her family and the baby's father (who denied that it was his), the pressures and fear overtook her. Even while having the actual abortion she was horribly tormented by what she was doing.
So, long story short, after the abortion she became profoundly depressed and fell into every kind of immorality. She became pregnant out of wedlock a second time, with a different partner -- this time determined to bear and care for the child. She got help from a local pregnancy center, found Jesus and later found the Catholic Church. And I mean found the Catholic Church with the heart of a convert and one who knows they have been forgiven MUCH!
I was hoping this room full of mostly elderly women would offer her welcome and acceptance after she shared her story with such humility and regret. They don't always, you know. Another friend of mine who had two abortions and then found the Church, much like Emily, was treated to disapproving, judgmental looks and rejection after she shared her story with groups from her Catholic Church. Thankfully, this group of women did embrace Emily, and well they should. The power of her ministry of deep public penitence and passion for the Catholic Church is a TREASURE she offers us now.
So did Mary Magdalen live happily ever after? I talked to Emily afterwards and learned that her story doesn't have an easy THE END attached. Life goes on. She is now a single mom trying desperately, for the sake of her son, to build some sort of a life with his father. With her own view of the world changed so dramatically since the father was chosen as a mate, making that a healthy, long term relationship can be a big challenge.
Wherever there is sin there are consequences, even after God forgives you . . . even after everyone in the neighborhood forgives you and the PCCW church women bring you an extra plate of finger sandwiches.
Jesus came and went from this earth. I wonder what messes from her earlier life Mary Magdalen struggled with after he left. It is none of my business. St. Mary Magdalen, pray for us.
Monday, May 14, 2012
Once again I was fiddling with the straps on my brown scapular today as I was walking on the road by my house. It is always reminding me of my consecration to the Blessed Mother, day in and day out, as it trys to peek out from under my shirt in grocery store lines and parent/teacher conferences, etc. Maybe that is the result of simple physics or maybe it has a life of its own. . . hmmmmm.
I am not trying to hide my Catholic Faith but I take visible public signs of it seriously. You never know when the persecution will resume. I half expect to see it during my lifetime. (But then I half expect to see the return of Our Lord, too, so take that for what you will.)
A really alarming sign of the coming persecution is the Catholic-themed newsfeed I see every day on my iGoogle homepage. It shows the top stories related to the Catholic church in the mainstream press. Lately it is getting pretty nasty, maybe even worse than at the height of the clergy sex-abuse scandal. Boy, threaten people's contraceptives and they turn ugly!
"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."
Anyway, I was pondering this as I walked past the house of a woman I know. She was doing me a favor a few months ago and I was at her house and I had this OHHHHHHHH experience when it dawned on me that she was gay. She is a very nice woman. Some of my best friends from high school are gay. The Church teaching on this one is a little hard to understand. (See Conversion - the 95% Rule.)
My point is not to question Church teaching. I accept it and grieve what it must mean for my neighbor (although I think she is of-another-faith and probably doesn't give a flip).
Anyway, now she and I have something in common. We can both wonder if and when the persecution will come knocking on our door. Her because she is gay, myself because I am Catholic. An interesting thing to share with someone.
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
You are a good person. You are kind to small animals. Sometimes you hold the door open for other people.
"When pollsters ask Republicans and Democrats whether the president can do anything about high gas prices, the answers reflect the usual partisan divisions in the country. About two-thirds of Republicans say the president can do something about high gas prices, and about two-thirds of Democrats say he can't.
"But six years ago, with a Republican president in the White House, the numbers were reversed: Three-fourths of Democrats said President Bush could do something about high gas prices, while the majority of Republicans said gas prices were clearly outside the president's control."
The article proposes that, for example, Democrats would feel the pain of inconsistency or "cognitive dissonance" if they thought Obama could do something about gas prices and chose not to. Logic gets set aside by members of both political parties as we try to find some puzzle pieces that will actually fit together neatly in our brain.
The proposed solution from Vedantam's story?
" . . .researchers had voters think of times in their lives when they had done something very positive and found that fortified by this positive memory, voters were more willing to take in information that challenged their pre-existing views."
The article suggested the following morning mantra to protect one's self from bias. (I THINK they were joking because they had a good giggle afterwards.)
"I'm a good person. I am kind to small animals. Sometimes I hold the door open for other people."
OK - forget about getting rid of my OWN political bias. How can I use this to my personal advantage? This rings true to me. If one were to say some kind and gentle things about another person's goodness to them before trying to get them to listen to your point, would that open the door and soften their cognitive dissonance defenses?
Of course there are consequences for the person using this approach as well. When you say something nice to someone else your brain has to either logically determine that the things you are saying to the person are true or that you are a liar. If your brain doesn't pick one or the other you will have cognitive dissonance unless you do a really good rationalization job and find a "C - none of the above" reason for saying those things.
So for example, Bob tries to manipulate Ted, getting him to lower the defenses around his political ideas, by telling Ted how good and kind he is. As a result, Bob now begins to believe the kind words he said to Ted. A peaceful and loving world results. Right?
PreachyPeacePants would love this! And it reminds me of the financial market, a weird system where everyone working for their own personal good accidentally creates greater good for the world.
Friday, April 13, 2012
Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.1 Corinthians 13: 4 - 7
Thursday, April 12, 2012
Wednesday, February 1, 2012
It was surprising for me to hear someone angrily confront my bishop . . . You know, like he was just some guy it wasn't a privilege to be in the same room with. Like he was just some guy you might be smarter than. And righter than.
Wednesday, January 25, 2012
Saturday, January 14, 2012
When my good Christian friend started fuming anger and frustration last week about illegal immigrants in California I struggled for a way to put out the fire. It was just as well that I couldn't think of anything to say because I was basically told that my opinion on this subject didn't matter because I was not from California as she and her family had been. She kept telling me I didn't know. I didn't know. On the other hand, I thought, it seemed unlikely that anyone else could really know all the hearts and minds, challenges and motivations of such a large group of people.
After wondering to myself how Jesus would respond to what she was saying it came to me. The problem was with one of her words. THEY. We all have "theys” in our lives. Republicans. Democrats. Immigrants. Pro-lifers. Pro-choicers. Welfare recipients. "The Man". Tea Partiers. Take your pick. You start with a large population with ONE THING in common and put them all in a box marked SAME. You have a bad experience with a few and then paint it with a wide brush over a whole lot of total strangers.
I am not denying the real life stories and examples. There are lots of people doing wrong and many are even hurting other people. HewhoisnotGod sure does love to wrap truth and lies into one big tasty sandwich though.
A few days ago two of my religious Facebook friends, total strangers to each other, posted the same video of an angry man bashing religion in the name of “Jesus”. Their posts were responded to with “likes” and statements of approval. To me, his rantings were all about a "they". Those religious people. The great thing about “they” is that even if the shoe fits, by definition it does not include “you” or “me”. Ask your fourth grade English teacher.
You know, each member of a group called "they” is an individual. For example, let's imagine one we will call Bob. Bob’s motivations for doing things we don't like might include sin, necessity, innocent lack of understanding, being a jerk, etc. Maybe Bob woke up this morning deliberately planning to screw the system and annoy people. Most people don't. And while I may not appreciate Bob’s actions in any case, I am called as a Christian to love Bob. Jesus did not suffer and die for a “them”. But he did for Bob. If you have a problem with Bob, go make it right. All this yelling and accusing can’t be good for anyone’s soul.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
I resolved to speak to my children today only in whispers. (This is a variation of the more annoying and usually short-lived parenting tool called “speaking to your children only like Barney the Dinosaur”.)
I’ll bet Barney would appreciate the Catholic church’s opposites game. In it there are seven opposites or "contrary virtues" to balance the seven deadly sins. The chart looks like this.
So what it means is that if you recognize that you have a problem with greed, make yourself do something generous. If you have the sloth thing going on, clean a bathroom. I would extend this list now to say, if you yell too much, make yourself whisper all day.
Another interesting theological angle is that it makes good penance. Whispering is a self-inflicted punishment of sorts that fits the "crime".
On the lighter side, I am a stay-at-home mom with a totally unused psyc degree. Experiments like "what would happen if you only spoke to your children in a whisper all day" appeal to the same side of me that hoped for twins so that for breakfast every day I could feed one twin Cheerios and the other twin shredded wheat. (I wondered how this would affect their high school ACT scores. If anyone has already done the twins/Cheerios/shredded wheat experiment please let me know.)
When you want to say something in a whisper you have to get pretty close to someone and make sure you have their attention. During our regular homeschool reading time today whispering forced us to huddle together on the couch (toothbrushing was appreciated).
All in all it did give us a yelling-free day. On the negative side, when my daughter called home to ask to be picked up she interpreted my whispering as either (a) telling her that someone had died or (b) that "the house was full of Nazis." It did give her quite a fright.
I hadn't realized how much I talk to people through closed bathroom doors (very hard in a whisper). And the killer today was kids saying "MOM!" because I had to actually get up and go to them to see what they wanted instead of just yelling "WHAAAAAAT?"
Finally, it was hard switching from whispering to my kids to using a normal voice with the outside world on the phone and on errands. But you know with the kids being homeschooled and being HOME so much . . . anything different, anything interesting is welcome and distracting from the frustrations of the day.
I am definitely adding the opposite of yelling -- whispering, to my parental toolbox of desperation. And considering all we have learned today . . . Barney would be proud.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Church kneeler raised high . . .
Fidgeting child - watch your toes
OH, NO! CRASH! OW! SHHHHH!
*"The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit are wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord. They belong in their fullness to Christ, Son of David. They complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them. They make the faithful docile in readily obeying divine inspirations."
--1831 in your Catechism of the Catholic Church